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Full text of "Can I conscientiously vote for Henry Clay?"


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:tr'Mr. •• 

Mr. Till 
re. really 



voting for these measures, and not for the man in his individ- 
ual capacity. 

2. The appointments to office under Mr. Pitt, w^ere certain, 
in Mr. Wilberforce's vievi^, to be such, in general, as he and 
other conscientious men would approve; much more so than 
could be expected from his political opponents. He felt sure 
of having learned and upright judges, and able executive offi- 
cers in the thousand posts of honor and trust, throughout the 
land — men whose private lives were superior, in most instan- 
ces, to that of Mr, Pitt himself. Now this constitutes the real 
government of a country ; and the case may happen, that one 
man who holds the appointing power, though pure himself in 
private life, may be led by party influences to give the people 
a corrupt government, while another of inferior personal char- 
acter, may be induced or compelled by similar influences, to 
place them under the government of men, who are "a terror 
to evil doers, and the praise of them that do well." The ques- 
tion turns, not so mucli on the character of the man, as of the 
party which he represents ; and Mr. Wilberforce in giving his 
vote, was in fact voting for ten thousand men whose charac- 
ter and principles he in general approved, and not for the sin- 
gle individual through whom they obtained office. 

3. No man doubts, whether in pursuing the great ends of 
life, he may act imtli others whose private character he does 
not wholly approve. An apostle has decided the question, 
otherwise " must ye needs go out of the woj'ld." No one hesi- 
tates to employ such men when necessary, as the instruments of 
accomplishing his designs. The captains of our ships and 
steamboats, and the agents of our numerous corporate institu- 
tions, are, in many cases, of this character. " Are they quali- 
fied for the particular duties of their station ? Can they be 
relied on to carry out the design ?" If so, though we should 
much prefer men whom wc could approve in all things, we 
employ them without scruple. We sail in their ships, we en- 
trust them with our property, we vote for them at meetings of 
stockholders, when we cannot find equally able men whom 
we approve in all things. We also make compromises with 
other stockholders, and take such men, when they will not 
give us others whom we should on the whole prefer. We do 
not abandon our property, and give up the interests commit- 
ted to our charge, because those with whom we act, deny us 
all that we could wish on this subject. We do what we can. 
Mr. Wilberforce acted on this principle, and it enabled him to 
do much. If he had acted on the contrary principle, he would 
have done nothing. 

4. Mr. Wilberlbrce felt, that no man in his senses could re- 
gard him, while acting on this principle, as giving any sane- 






lion to the errors of Mr. Pitt in private life. No evil of tiii3 
kind did actually result for the vote he gave. No one was 
ever led so entirely to misconstrue that vote, as to imagine that 
Mr. Wilberforce gave any sanction to dueling, sabbath-break- 
ing, or intoxication, by his political connection with Mr. Pitt. 
Was he not, then, perfectly conscientious and upright in what 
he did ? He made no sacrifice of character or principle, he 
gave not the slightest countenance to wrong-doing, while he 
stood firm at his post, and upheld that system of measures 
which he considered essential to the highest interests of his 
country. 

Now the case presented by the approaching election of 
President, is precisely the same, except that Mr. Clay stands 
on much higher ground as to character, than Mr. Pitt did at 
the period in question. Many years ago, lie fought a duel, 
but he now expresses his unqualified reprobation of the prac- 
tice ; he states, in substance, that he cannot conceive of any 
possible concurrence of circumstances which would now lead 
him to meet another in single combat; and he merely waives 
any hypotlieticol declarations, as ridiculous at his age, on a 
subject, which he supposes can never have any practical ap- 
plication to himself. The letters of Dr. Bascom and Dr. 
Chapman, distinguished divines residing in the same town, 
afford the fullest evidence, that Mr. Clay's moral character has 
been for some years at least, unimpeachcd in the community 
where he lives. He treats the institutions of religion with re- 
spect ; he is not profane, not given to vicious indulgence. I 
say, then, that if Mr. Wilberforce was not guilty of a flagrant 
violation of his conscience, I can vote for Mr. Clay without 
wounding mine. 

I feel too, that as Mr. Wilberforce went further, and consid- 
ered himself hound in conscience to vote for Mr. Pitt, so am 
I bound, in the present momentous crisis, to vote for Mr. Clay. 
It is the only means left me, of resisting two of the greatest 
evils which can bcfal the United States, the utter prostration 
of the industry of the country, and the curse and dishonor of 
voluntarily enlarging the limits of slavery among a people, 
who in the charter of their liberties, have declared that " all 
men are free and equal." I could not throw away my vote 
in such a case, without feeling guilty before God and my 
country, of a flagrant breach of trust. In my oath, when I 
was made an elector, I solemnly promised, " whenever called 
to give my vote or suffrage, touching any matter which con- 
cerns this State or the United States, to give it as I judge 
ivill conduce to the best good of the same" I feel that I cari' 
not withhold it, without deep guilt, when " matter" of such 
solemn moment is submitted to the suffrage of the American 
people. 



I feel, too, that the question, " who shall appoint the ofiicers 
of government throughout tlie land," is one of vital interest. 
Neither Mr. Clay nor Mr. Polk, whichever is elected, has the 
power to do this at his own option. They must be governed 
by the party to which they belong. " Shall the appointments 
in Connecticut, for instance, be made under the counsel and 
advice of such men as Chief Justice Williams, or of Mr. Gideon 
Welles '^■' This is the practical question throughout the coun- 
try. This question becomes one of pre-eminent importance, 
when we look at our courts of justice, and especially the Su- 
preme Court of the United States. This tribunal is the great 
bulwark of the Constitution. For nearly fifty years, this court 
has been establishing a great system of principles and prece- 
dents, which are the stability of our political fabric. The 
question is, "Shall the decisions of that court be sustained, or 
set aside V\ It is well known, that there is a class of lawyers, 
especially in the Middle and Southern States, who stand forth 
in utter opposition to the principles of Ellsworth, and Marshall, 
and Thompson, which have hitherto prevailed in that court. 
Quite a number of such men have been placed on the bench 
within the last ten years ; and it requires the addition of only 
two or three more of the same principles, to give them the as- 
cendency ; and to upset at once the great principles of Ameri- 
can law, as laid down and established during the progress 
of half a century. I bring no accusation against these men, 
but I state the fact, which they glory in proclaiming, that, if 
they gain the ascendency, the system of American law must be, 
in a great measure, built up aneio. There are now two impor- 
tant vacancies in that court to be filled, and in the ordinary 
course of nature, one or two more vacancies may be expected 
in the coming four years. Who shall fill them ? This ques- 
tion is far more important, than what particular man shall be 
President of the United States. Which set of principles shall 
prevail in that court 1 If Mr. Clay is elected, the principles of 
Marshall will be perpetuated. If Mr. Polk succeeds, — and he 
cannot do it, except through the supineness or the unfounded 
scruples of those who difier from him on these very points, — 
then the appointment will confessedly be made from among 
those who are bent on breaking down the great principles of 
American jurisprudence. Can any conscientious man, who 
maintains those principles, be concerned in producing such a 
result by withholding his vote ? 

These are some of the views which have led me to the con- 
clusion, that I cannot in conscience deny my vote to Mr. 
Clay. 

A Professed Christian. 



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